Day 2 of my partner Sam and I’s brief trip to the Bay area and the 17 beers I drank there. On this day we visited the new Mikkeller Bar SF during their soft opening. Day 1 detailed our experience in an anarchist commune. Day 3 contains my final thoughts on San Francisco and some words about how west coast beer drinkers are spoiled rotten.
Sam and I woke up on a couch in Oakland. Yesterday we had awoken in an anarchist’s psychedelic vision of utopia, today we awoke in another very different attempt at utopia. The communal house had gardens out the back, a woodshop and a chicken coup, most of which remained dry because of the massive water-collecting roof. We were welcomed here by strangers striving to build the ideal microcosm of society in a big carbon-neutral house at the end of a dead-end street. It’s almost the opposite of the benevolent chaos of the Vulcan – a painfully deliberate, carefully ordered version of it.
We take the bridge across the bay into the city, hopping out in the Mission, a San Francisco neighbourhood which proves the rule that “the sleazier a place once was the more aspiration it is now” (Pete Brown).
We stopped in at 4 Barrel, the hippest cafe in the world. I don’t mean to disparage it – my macchiato was more than worth the wait – but while I waited I realized that Montreal’s self-appointed designation as the capital of hipsterdom is ill-founded. The hipsters here take themselves so much more seriously. They have all the same qualities but none of the irony – and I thought the irony was the whole point.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – A classic. I had a pint of it in Brooklyn once but I could easily drink this beer for the rest of my life. I’m glad to see that I can get it here in Melbourne as well, though not cheaply – I saw it on special today at $19 for a 6-pack.
Rodenbach Classic – Last time I had this was in Belgium, where it costs pennies. I paid more for one bottle in San Francisco than the cost of a 4-pack there. It wasn’t as good as I remembered, but I don’t know if that’s because Belgian beer is always better in Belgium, or because I have since had the Rodenbach Grand Cru, to which the classic pales in comparison.
On Tap at Mikkeller Bar SF
Mikkeller, world-renown gypsy brewer, opened a bar in San Francisco (the second after the original in Denmark), in July. We got in there before the grand opening, which was just this past weekend, for dinner and drinks. The bar is very modern, stark and industrial. We enter into a foyer with small tables for drinkers. A narrow passage with booths on the right opens into a large, 360-degree bar with stylized seating and brick walls, lights hanging from the high warehouse ceiling. It’s not exactly cozy.
The taplist was remarkable, and is updated every couple of days. Even the great beer bars I’ve been to don’t have this kind of masterfully curated selection based on excellence alone. There’s nearly 40 beers on tap, a fair handful of Mikkeler but overall an incredibly diverse and global selection. Our server had a handle on all of them, pun not intended. Sam went for the black beers and I went for the sours:
Port Board Meeting Coffee Brown Ale (US) – A rich, roasty and bitter black beer at 8.5%. Coffee and chocolate come through nicely.
North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout on Nitro (US) – Intense, full-bodied stout at 9%. Smooth, creamy and fruity. Very warming and complex.
Bockor Cuvee de Jacobin Rouge (Belgium) – A 5.5% sour red. Very sharp, assertive and oaky, with a clean, mature taste. Balanced and refreshing, but with layers of complexity.
Petrus Aged Pale Ale (Belgium) – A 7.3% unfiltered sour ale, smoother that the Bockor. Crisp, full-flavoured and well-rounded. Some toasty malts, a lot of brett and citrus. My favourite of the lot.
All four beers were amazing. Unfortunately the food didn’t quite live up to the promise of the beer. Sam does love beer (which I consider myself eternally lucky for), but not the way I do. Beer is to me as food is to her, so she had harsher words about the meal than me, but I agreed that her sandwich was overpoweringly salty. My sausage sandwich was tasty apart from the actual sausage, which was a bit thin and flavourless. I helped Sam with her meal and ordered the weak cask ale to wash down the salt with, but we still didn’t make it through the whole thing. The food was still decent, and our server took our feedback to heart. We left satisfied and would have gone back the next night if it wouldn’t have been our last night in town.